Blended Parenting is about Shared Authority. It’s the balance of saying, “I know she was in charge, but now he is too.” It’s the careful dance of listening and learning, of stepping boldly around and sometimes into the landmines of parenting. It is the difference between Power and Authority: Power is taken, Authority is given.
Our counselor coached us through the process with this step by step model:
First, identify the rules. “In our family, we don’t leave our trash for someone else to clean up.”
Identify the consequences. “People who leave their trash for someone else to clean up will write this sentence ten times: I will respect my family and my home by cleaning up after myself.”
Have a family meeting. With everyone present, including all children, the biological parent, and the new parent, the biological parent lists the rules and the consequences so everyone is on the same page. “Guys, you know the rules now. Deal? If Peter or I find any more string cheese wrappers in between the cushions of the couch, you’ll be writing sentences. But seriously, just please pick up the trash, because I’m pretty sure those string cheese wrappers will be my undoing.”
Now, when the child breaks an agreed-upon rule, the new parent has the shared authority to implement consequences. “Guys, pick up the string cheese wrappers and put them in the trash. Your mom was clear about the rules and consequences, so grab your pencil and notebook.”
There’s no place for the hurtful and hateful daggers of, “Whatever, you’re not my dad,” because I openly shared my authority with Peter.
With this model in mind, we’re in the process of laying down these rules and consequences in our own series of family meetings, which sometimes happen at the dinner table or in the car or over ice cream. Sometimes I don’t know we need a rule until it’s been broken—(“Oh, so apparently I need to tell you not to park your bike by wedging it under the bumper of the car. New rule.”)—so these meetings emerge often.
We sat at the dinner table and I showed them how this will go.
“Guys, one of the best things about having Peter in our lives now is that I don’t have to do this job on my own anymore. The way I’ve been leading this family for the last five years isn’t how I’m going to do it anymore, because it’s actually not what God wants for us. He wants you to have a mom and a dad, and I’m handing my authority over to Peter. I’m not giving mine up, but I’m sharing it with him from now on.”
And then, as both the punctuation and the underline of my paragraph, as both a covering and foundation of our family, Peter put his arm around me and said, “Men, your mom and I are a team. And I’d love for you to be on our team. I don’t need to be your best friend, but I’m going to love you and parent you well. And I have to tell you, if you attack my teammate, it won’t go well for you. So let’s not do that. Let’s be on the same team.”
Shared Authority. Done well, it’s a glorious and mighty thing. My heart exhales.